State schools

State schools aren’t the Wild West and ‘Britain’s strictest headmistress’ isn’t Clint Eastwood | Zoe Williams

Jhe documentary Britain’s Strict Headmistress was released on the small screen on Sunday. He continues to do the hard work of Katharine Birbalsingh, mythologizing himself so furiously that, if you had no memory or didn’t know better, you’d think she coined the phrases “please” and thank you”.

Birbalsingh is not a bad figurehead for the era we live in, that of asymmetric polarization. She can go out with any idea she likes – girls don’t like math or liberals don’t like Shakespeare – but voice any hint of dissent, ask even the lightest question based on evidence, and you might be branded by his defenders as a hysterical mob. It’s usually safer to leave her alone, which is fine, because more interesting than her didactic method is the right-hand comment response.

The consensus in this camp is that Birbalsingh has done something incredibly unusual, even magical, in creating a safe learning environment. And yet, it wouldn’t fly without an audience that had never set foot in another public school.

I myself went to a private school, so I can follow the logic precisely. They start from the principle that private education must be better, because how else to explain the superiority of the results, university places and jobs? They compared this to their own private school experience, which was probably mixed – some good teachers, some bad ones, and quite a bit of bullying – and they come to the conclusion that public schools must be much worse: “bigger”, worse children. behavior and a complete lack of aspiration. Sprinkle in some half-remembered Grange Hill, and wham – regular public schools are the Wild West and Katharine Birbalsingh is Clint Eastwood.

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